This itinerary is part of Travel Tales, a series of life-changing adventures on afar.com. Read more stories of transformative trips and inspired itineraries on the Travel Tales home page. Though COVID-19 has stalled many travel plans, we hope our stories can offer inspiration for your future adventures—and a bit of hope.
Sprawling and sparkling—and often set in stunning locations—royal palaces dot the landscape throughout India, offering a fascinating, intimate look at the country’s royal heritage. Built under the reign of maharajas, kings, and nizams, these opulent structures connect past to present, preserving the opulent lifestyle led by onetime leaders. And some of the country’s most impressive palaces that you can tour are located in the gorgeous state of Rajasthan.
Begin your journey among the colorful hues of the Pink City. There’s hardly a more fitting place to stay than the JW Marriott Jaipur Resort & Spa, where traditional architecture and design elements evoke the sweeping grandeur of the palaces you’ll be experiencing. Get in a royal mood as you dine at Mohan Mahal, the resort’s mirror-laden Indian restaurant, which was architecturally inspired by a pavilion in the nearby Amber Fort.
That fort—also known as the Amer Palace—is the perfect place to start exploring. Forged of red sandstone and marble, the massive structure dates to 1592 and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2013. Witness its combination of Hindu and Muslim architectural influences, as well as its strategic—and dramatic—setting, high on a promontory and jutting out into a lake.
Continue into central Jaipur and look for the Jal Mahal, a beautiful floating palace in Man Sagar Lake. In Jaipur proper, you can tour the sprawling City Palace, an 18th-century treasure with Rajasthani, Mughal, and European architectural touches (and where the Jaipur royal family still resides). Inside, you’ll find the Maharaja Sawai Man Singh II Museum, with textiles, weapons, artwork, and acres of gardens.
Also inside is Baradari, a café beautifully restored using artisanal techniques to create a freshly contemporary space. End your day here, sitting outside among the alcoves and enjoying gourmet twists on traditional local favorites and popular street foods.
It’s a quick, one-hour flight to Udaipur—one of the most romantic cities in the entire country, thanks to features like charmingly narrow lanes within the old city and, of course, its grand palaces. Here, too, you’ll find a City Palace; this one, on the banks of Lake Pichola, was built over centuries; the sprawling halls and towering turrets radiate the accomplishments of a different era.
Get a different perspective on the palace by having lunch at Ambrai, an open-air restaurant that looks across Lake Pichola at the massive structure, as well as other iconic buildings like Gangaur Ghat and Sajjangarh Fort. If you can’t get enough of the view, return in the evening for a candlelit dinner.
Lake views are also on tap from your next stop, Sajjangarh Palace. Also known as Monsoon Palace, it was built high on Bansdara Mountain in the late 19th century to watch the monsoon clouds. With a panorama of hills and lake, you’ll have plenty to gaze out at yourself after touring the palace. If you can, stay for the especially dramatic sunset.
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